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Pawpaws have a rich flavor that is a mix of banana, vanilla custard, pineapple and mango, and they’re very nutritious—high in potassium, iron and calcium. The fruit can be used in cookies and breads where its creamy, custard-like flesh complements spices and other ingredients. They can also be eaten raw, but in small amounts as they can cause digestive problems.
As a tree, pawpaw or Asimina triloba has tropical-looking foliage that is conspicuous for its large size (leaves can be up to a foot long) that tends to turn a brilliant yellow in fall. They prefer moist, well-drained soils but are tolerant of clay and drought. They will tolerate dense shade but, for fruit production, are best grown in full sun. In the wild pawpaws can often be found in the shady understory of oak-hickory forests and they usually grow in colonies, spreading to form an attractive grove.
It’s an attractive landscape tree for even small spaces since they are narrower than they are high, and their tendency to colonize can be contained by mowing or otherwise removing young seedlings. They’re one of the last trees to leaf out in spring and early on the young leaves may appear yellowish or chlorotic but they soon turn a deep green.